Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler, P.C.

When you share custody and you want to change a child's school

What happens when you're divorced and you decide that a school isn't providing the right environment for your child's needs? What happens if your child wants to change schools?

These kinds of problems can cause conflicts even when parents are married -- and that only intensifies after divorce. If you think a change in schools is necessary for your child, here's what you need to know:

1. You may or may not enjoy the right to make the decision on your own.

Illinois recognizes both legal and physical custody. If you have physical custody, that means your child lives with you. If you have legal custody, you have the right to make major decisions about your child's life, including schooling. If you have sole legal custody, you call the shots. If you share legal custody, you and your ex-spouse need to make the decision together.

2. If you and your spouse can't agree on this issue, you may need to head to court.

If talking (or pleading) with you ex-spouse about the issue gets you nowhere and you don't have sole legal custody, it's time to ask the court to intervene. Be prepared to show why changing schools is in your child's best interest.

For example, maybe your child has a learning disability and needs a school with a lower teacher-student ratio. Maybe you simply think your child would do better at an online school due to their particular anxiety problems, health challenges or the need for a more flexible curriculum. Whatever the reason, try to enlist as much support from your child's doctors, teachers and others as you can for the move.

Custody issues often crop up long after a divorce is settled, so don't be afraid to discuss your situation with an attorney if you and your ex can't seem to agree -- especially when your child's well-being is at stake.

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